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Getting to the nub of it

James Lovelock

Sometimes I get a little confused, when I alight upon a rather smart aphorism, as to whether I’ve heard it elsewhere – e.g. via a quotation or written extract from a literary great, a politician, celebrity film star or artist, philosopher, wit or comedian – or I actually came up with myself. The origin of the one I wish to use as a springboard for today’s post is a perfect example so I apologise to my Rust readers at the outset.

Someone, and indeed it may have been me, once suggested that the human race has the relationship between consciousness and dreaming the wrong way around. In effect they (or I) was floating the hypothesis that, contrary to the general perception that we live in the real world and go off somewhere else in our dreams, the opposite is actually the case.

For one thing, the theory brings a whole new angle to the popular comment (usually deployed at a time of some crisis or another) “I’m hoping that any moment now I’m going to wake up and find that this has all just been a bad dream …”

Anyway, let’s cut straight to the chase.

A couple of years ago now – and I’m conscious these days that when I use that phrase, the actual passage of time involved can be anything up to a decade – there was a story in the media about how the capabilities of computer-generated images (or ‘CGI’) had now developed to the point where (for example) the prospect of being able to ‘revive’ the movie careers of any huge star of the past as they were at the height of their powers was now upon the horizon.

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

This all sounded rather marvellous fun. Imagine being able to ‘bring back’ (at least on cinema or television screens) the likes of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Tallulah Bankhead or Ava Gardner … or in male terms Clark Gable, John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum … and being able to ‘cast’ them in new movies ad infinitum alongside modern living actors.

There scarcely seemed to be a disadvantage – well, unless perhaps one counts the potential impact upon job opportunities for young new actors trying to break into the industry.

Think of it: the dead actor, or perhaps rather the dead actor’s executors, would be able to copyright his or her ‘moving image’ and thereby potentially generate another 75 or more years’ worth of revenue from which family descendants might enjoy a comfortable living.

As a movie producer, once you’d managed to negotiate a deal with the rights holders, you would then be able to ‘hire’ an all-time great to play the lead in a new movie – what’s more, without having to worry about diva-type behaviour, drink or drugs problems, rows over the script or billings, insurance or indeed said ‘movie great’ kyboshing the PR campaign accompanying the movie’s launch, e.g. by an incident of bad behaviour or unfortunate off-the-cuff remark in an interview.

I remember when first hearing of this potential development feeling quite positively excited about it.

Fast-forward to 2016. I don’t know if many of my readers noticed it, but last week there was a related item of news in the media, if you think about it such an obvious one that it should really have occurred to me instantly I heard the news about ‘bringing back’ historic movie greats all those years ago.



It seems that CGI has been moving on plenty since then. These days there is scarcely a movie launched that has not benefited from CGI enhancements – whether they be (to give just two theoretical examples) shooting a scene in Parliament Square with about a dozen actors but then later ‘adding in’ a CGI crowd of one hundred thousand to make it appear as if it was some mass rally or another … or a modern lead actress finding herself embarrassed on the day of shooting a tender naked love scene in bed by an unfortunate outbreak of spots or facial blemishes and afterwards having them ‘removed’ or ‘painted out’ in post-production.

See here for one example of the story – courtesy of the pen of Robbie Collin in – THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

The thrust is that – in this modern age – anything is now possible. Even perhaps young actors and actresses simply queuing up to get their three-dimensional (and possibly idealised) image captured in their twenties and then simply living a wonderful life in relative obscurity – spouse and 2.4 children to the fore – whilst their CGI alter-ego forges an ‘A’ list Hollywood career, without either of them ever having to face the problems of growing old and losing their looks.

Of course, if young actors and actresses were to be able to do this, then presumably so could you or I.

I’m not just talking about having a surrogate movie career – I’m talking here about having a surrogate career in any line of human endeavour one chose. Or even several careers in several different lines of human endeavour.

Or even – if I wished to spend my time having a career as a Hollywood movie producer – what would there be to stop me inventing a whole range of CGI actors of my own and having them play characters in movies that I’d written and directed myself?

earthOr even devise a topical website on which one had ‘invented’ all the columnists and for which one had in fact written all their articles as well?

This whole CGI phenomenon has got me re-assessing my whole attitude to the purpose of life and my place within the universe.

Are we humans alive, or just dreaming it all, or in fact are we all just characters in somebody else’s CGI-generated movie?

I think we should be told.

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About Martin Roberts

A former motoring journalist, Martin lists amongst his greatest achievements giving up smoking. Three times. He holds to the view that growing old is not for the faint-hearted. More Posts